An assistant professor in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s graphic design program recently returned from a trip to Estonia, where he was an invited participant in the Estonian Wood Carving Symposium.
Faculty member Brian A. Flynn was invited to participate in the symposium, which took place Aug. 6-11 in Järvakandi, Estonia, by Ormar Tamm, an Estonian sculptor in charge of choosing artists for the event. Flynn and Tamm had been corresponding by e-mail and had become familiar with each other’s work. To be accepted to the symposium, sculptors submitted a drawing of a proposed sculpture, and the best were chosen.
“The experience was incredible and very inspirational,” Flynn said. “To have the chance to work and live with other sculptors was a chance of a lifetime. I had the chance to discuss and see how they work. Ormar was particularly inspirational for me. He was very generous with information. I had the chance to visit his studio and discuss his process and philosophy.”
In Järvakandi, a small village about an hour south of the country’s capital, Tallinn, Flynn roomed with a sculptor from Denmark. There were also sculptors from Ukraine and Latvia, as well as Estonia.
“There were about 11 sculptors in all some were men from the community who wanted to carve with us,” he said.
The participants were greeted with opening ceremonies that included interviews by the local newspaper, speeches from the mayor and the organizers to introduce the artists to the public, Estonian folk dancers, and an appearance by a local television station with the host of the Estonian “Deal or No Deal” game show.
The morning ceremony was followed by choosing spruce logs and spending the better part of the day rolling them and standing them up for each sculptor.
The following four days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, were filled with sculpting. They started with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast, worked until lunch, and then returned for more sculpting until about 5:45.
Each sculptor was provided with a new chain saw and angle grinder, which Flynn supplemented with wood gauges and a mallet that he took with him to execute his 7-foot-tall sculpture.
“I have never worked on that scale, and it was very intimidating,” he said. “The largest piece I had carved before this was about 4 feet tall.”
While the artists worked, the public would visit to take photos and ask the sculptors questions.
Evenings included such activities as a visit to a small glass-blowing factory, where the sculptors had a chance to try glass blowing and got to keep the piece they created. They also visited the home of one of the event’s organizers for pancakes and a cookout, and the summer home of the mayor, for another cookout and to visit his sauna.
“Most houses in Estonia have a sauna, and there is almost a ritual to going to the sauna,” Flynn said. “The highlight of the nightly events was an outdoor concert about three hours from Järvakandi. The concert was staged around small lakes. The stages were built out into the lakes and they had a fire show (on a hillside next to the stage) that accompanied the show. The music ranged from an electric harp to classical orchestra.”
After just four days of work on their giant sculptures, the symposium concluded on Saturday, with a foot race, bike race and interviews of each sculptor about his process. The mayor gave a speech and gave each artist mementos.
The pieces will become public art for the village of Järvakandi.
“Around the village they had many sculptures that were created in the previous symposiums,” Flynn said. “I am very excited to have a large piece of sculpture displayed in Estonia.”
Flynn was so inspired by the symposium that he plans to try to organize a similar event in Williamsport. “Most of the sculptors I met were interested in participating in a symposium here,” he said.
Flynn’s sculptures are found in both private and public collections. He has received various awards for sculpture in national competitions, and recently won a contest that resulted in a commission to create a public sculpture at the Williamsport Regional Airport. The competition was sponsored by the airport authority and Public Artworks, a subcommittee of the Williamsport/Lycoming Arts Council. The sculpture will be unveiled Oct. 11.
He holds a master of fine arts from Indiana State University, and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Columbus College of Art and Design.
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